The SideCar* is A GREAT DRINK TO DIVE INTO SOME OF THE history OF COCKTAILS. As a derivative of the very first cocktail to INCLUDE citrus juice, WHERE IT Could of came from is just as interesting as the drink itself.
The Brandy Crusta is the cocktail that broke the mold of what a cocktail could be. Before the Brandy Crusta a cocktail was merely spirit, water, bitters and sugar combined in a glass. But it was the Brandy Crusta that broke that mold with the addition of fruit juice. Yes, you read that right - fruit juice was the innovation. And, to turn it up even further, the original Brandy Crusta also fathered the sugar rim. How drunk were they that day?
As far as anyone can tell (and by anyone, I mean David Wondrich, the patron saint of cocktails) this all was written into history with the recipe for the Brandy Crusta first appearing in Jerry Thomas' 1862 book How to Mix Drinks.
From that point on, the addition of fresh juice became the new standard for cocktails.
So how did the Brandy Crusta become the Sidecar? That is where cocktail history becomes more like lore or legend.
First emerging around World War I, The Sidecar was either born at the Parisian Ritz Hotel or Harry's New York Bar in Paris or at the Buck's Club in London. This depends on what version of history you believe in.
The first recipes were printed around 1922 in Harry MacElhone's Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails and Robert Vermeire's Cocktails and How to Mix Them. This is where things go a little more sideways. In earlier editions of Harry MacElhone's book he attributes the creator of the drink as Pat MacGarry (of Buck's Club fame.) In later editions he, himself, takes credit for its creation. (Great artists steal, I guess?)
The name "Sidecar" also has two potential meanings.
Legend has it that an Army Captain would drive up to Harry's Bar on a motorcycle with a sidecar. Another, more likely, theory is that when a bartender accidentally makes too much drink, they will sometimes pour the rest into a small glass. This is sometimes known as a "sidecar" to the main cocktail.
I selected an amazing overproof cognac for my cocktails from Gourry de Chadeville. (I gave a couple hints and tips about picking a cognac while making the Port Wine Cocktail.) Picking a cognac is really the hardest part of sourcing ingredients for this cocktail. So take time and do your research. Gourry has been making cognac since 1619. Think about that. 15 generations have been crafting cognac manually in the Grand Fine area of France for almost 400 years.
I am really not sure why you would select any other triple sec orange liqueur besides Cointreau. There really is no substitute. Pro-Tip: If you are discovering and making older cocktail recipes and see the ingredient white curaçao - use Cointreau. It is the same thing.
Landing on my own recipe was a bit more difficult. I am trying not to be swayed by current trends. I want stay focused on creating my own takes of these classic cocktails with the ingredients of my choosing.
I am more of a booze forward drinker - so that is where I started. Getting inspiration from Knut Sundin's recipe my first attempt was as follows:
½ oz of fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ oz. of Cointreau
2 oz. Overproof Cognac
The overproof cognac put a lot of kick behind the drink. So I went back to the drawing board. I played around with the balance of ingredients, knowing that the cognac had more bite than usual. For the final recipe I ended up increasing the fresh lemon juice and reducing the Cointreau and cognac.
For the presentation of the cocktail I was inspired by The Brandy Crusta's use of a small wine glass. I poured the cocktail into a Nick and Nora glass and garnished with an orange peel.
Modern Side Car Cocktail
¾ oz. of fresh lemon juice
1 oz. of Cointreau
1 ½ oz. Overproof Cognac
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and properly diluted. Strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with orange peel.
*In Knut W. Sundin's book "Two Hundred Selected Drinks" he separates the word "side" and "car". The modern approach is to combine these two words into one. When writing directly about Knut's recipe I utilize his spelling. When discussing the cocktail in general I use the modern approach.
J.B. is the founder of 200 Drinks. He spends most of his day working as a design leader at a large technology company but finds time in his schedule to enjoy a drink and write about it. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, son and pup.